New Delhi: India will spend as much as ₹ 1.13 trillion in the next three-five years to provide Internet connections to all citizens through an initiative called Digital India.
The cabinet cleared the programme on Wednesday, communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. Digital India will act as an umbrella plan to integrate and synchronize all digital initiatives including the national broadband plan and the domestic manufacturing policy.
Many of these policies are either in the proposal stage or in various stages of implementation, though heavily delayed. The integration and synchronization under the Digital India plan is expected to ensure timely execution with maximum impact to citizens.
The plan will be monitored by the Prime Minister’s committee on Digital India with the ministers of finance, communications, rural development, human resources development and health as members under Narendra Modi’s chairmanship.
The plan was first announced by Modi in his speech on Independence Day.
Apart from electronic delivery of government services to all citizens and businesses, the plan is expected to create 17 million direct and 85 million indirect jobs, while significantly reducing Indian imports of electronics, according to a presentation of the plan, which was reviewed by Mint.
The plan, which rivals any physical infrastructure plan that the government has come out with before, envisages the creation of virtual infrastructure to connect every citizen with high-speed Internet and a plethora of services, using a lifelong digital identity along with mobile phones, bank accounts and a shareable private space on a public cloud.
Citizens will be able to easily access government services, which will be seamlessly integrated across departments and jurisdictions, and available in real time on mobile phones and online, in Indian languages.
“Digital India has the potential to transform the existing public service delivery system, improve productivity, create jobs and induce economic activity in areas which were not digitally connected. All this is possible by overcoming barriers of siloed implementations, non-availability of robust last-mile connectivity, process improvements, capacity constraints, efficient operational models and by leveraging the emerging technologies like cloud, social media, analytics and mobility," said Rakesh Kaul, executive director, government and public sector at PwC India, a consultancy.
Among the multiple projects that come under the Digital India initiative, the national broadband plan will cost the most. The plan aims to connect 250,000 village councils at a cost of ₹ 27,000 crore, to be completed by December 2016.
The national information infrastructure will piggyback on this to be able to provide all necessary e-governance services at a cost of ₹ 15,686 crore and be ready by March 2017.
The plan will also ensure universal access to mobile phones to 42,311 villages in the country that are still unconnected by June 2015 at a cost of ₹ 16,000 crore. At the end of June, total teledensity in India was 75.8%, with urban teledensity at 146.24% and rural teledensity lagging behind at 44.5%.
The plan also envisages a net-zero electronics import target by 2020 through the Digital India initiative, through a number of moves to incentivize, promote and develop manufacturing in the country. The incentives include a modified special incentive package scheme, tax rationalization and preferential market access, costing a total of around ₹ 24,000 crore.
The plan also talks of creating five new electronic manufacturing clusters in the next five years, with the government footing ₹ 500 crore of the ₹ 1,500 crore estimated cost. An electronic development fund will also be set up to create Indian intellectual property for electronic goods.
The setting up of semiconductor fabrication facilities in the country has been a priority for some time. As part of the plan, the government expects to create two facilities, at a cost of ₹ 12,419 crore, ₹ 23,347 crore and ₹ 1,400, respectively, during the 12th, 13th and 14th Plan periods. The plan will also create skill development centres to produce a workforce of 400,000 for the electronics sector in the next five years at a cost of ₹ 575 core.
As part of the e-governance aspect of the plan, the government plans to bring all departments across the country online, including government services and necessary storage of certificates among others, in the next three years.
The electronic delivery of services, including health, education, security, justice, financial inclusion and information to farmers has been labelled e-kranti. This aims to provide broadband connectivity to 250,000 schools, including free WiFi and also massive online open courses. E-healthcare will ensure access to online medical consultations, records, supplies and even pan-India patient information. Farmers will have real-time access to price information and financial help as well as mobile banking.
The plan will also include a geographic information system-based social network for citizens called MyGov.